Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Losing Patients

I found out the other day that one of my oldtimer patients Mr. G has died. A 71 year old man I had been seeing for his diabetes and hypothyroidism for the last 8 years.
And then 2 weeks ago, I was informed another, tragically lost her battle with a chronic issue. She was only 24.
I guess I've been working here long enough. 6 years in my previous place, and going into my 9th year here. And so, for something like endocrinology, where the bulk of our cases are comprised of diabetes, a chronic condition that often requires quarterly visits, pretty soon you get to know your patients pretty well.
You know their glucose trends. Their downfalls (for the gentleman above, it was nightly creamsicles). Their fears, their hopes, their dreams.
Like how Mrs. A hopes to retire to Florida, if her husband survives his treatment for colon cancer. How Miss H. is training to be a teacher. How Mrs. T misses her grandkids out East, but isn't able to travel because of her severe CHF and oxygen-dependence, and fears greatly she will never see them before she leaves this world.
You get to know your patients pretty damn well. And truth be told, I've begun to see many of them as friends, even (if I could call them that, as they do pay to see the doctor), or even an extended family member.
And so, when I found out that the two patients had died, I was quite upset. More than I expected the news to affect me. So much so that I called their families during my downtime to convey my condolences and perhaps to share the sadness and grief.

It's true this job sometimes feels thankless. With the numerous dissatisfied patients who are mad that you can't cure their depression or fatigue or obesity. With the piles of bureaucratic crap on my desk- refills, prior authorizations, Medicare forms. The hoops we are made to jump through. But perhaps the one thing I enjoy most in my job is the rapport you do form with some patients. Almost to the point where you look forward to their visits to find out how they are doing.

And so, when you do lose some patients, the sadness (though not comparable to what their family is going through) is real.

RIP. It has been a privilege to have been your doctor.